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The estranged husband of a female employee of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission was arrested recently in the lobby of his ex-wife's workplace after one of the commission's incident management teams assessed the situation and recommended risk mitigation steps be taken.
“We had measures in place where he was stopped in the lobby and taken to jail,” recalled Regan Rychetsky, Austin, Texas-based director of health and human services, enterprise risk management and safety for the commission.
“Domestic violence is one of the primary threats in our workplace — in anyone's workplace, really,” said Mr. Rychetsky, who estimates at least one-third of workplace violence stems from violent home situations.
To prevent domestic violence from spilling over into the workplace, “you have to have a cultural shift for an employee to feel comfortable enough to come forward. A lot of times, employers believe it to be a personal matter. The reality of the situation is that current or former partner knows where that person is eight to 10 hours a day, and probably knows her co-workers and how to access the building, which makes it a workplace issue.”
“If she comes forward in our workplace, we take measures to improve her safety immediately,” which might mean finding an alternate work location or protected parking, Mr. Rychetsky said.
“Then we ask if they have a protective order and, if not, if they would be interested in obtaining one, and I would give them some information to help them obtain one because if they're leaving an abusive partner, that's the most dangerous time for them,” he said.
“More women are killed when they leave their abusive partners than at any other time in their relationship,” Mr. Rychetsky said.
Often, he said, stalking and domestic violence go hand-in-hand.
“We are constantly searching for new resources for employees who have witnessed or been in the same office where incidents have occurred,” he said. “In the aftermath, we have EAP, critical incident stress management, disaster behavioral health treatment.”
A comprehensive program to prevent workplace gun violence begins with vigilance and teaches employees to know whether to run, hide or fight back. Workplace violence prevention experts recommend that employers train employees to be aware of security breaches, aberrant behavior and other potential threats, and require that they report such incidents to a centralized repository where a cross-functional threat assessment team can review them and recommend risk mitigation measures to implement.